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Poll chief wants ballot configuration moved beyond Jan. 22


The chairman of the Commission on Elections (Comelec) wants to extend the ballot configuration beyond January 22 – a date when the Supreme Court (SC) will finally be able to settle the petitions for reprieve of various party-list groups.
 
This after the SC took back its previous announcements that it granted status quo ante (SQA) orders to various axed party-lists. An SQA would reverse the Comelec’s decision disqualifying them from the party-list derby this year.
 
"Upon verification, the SC did not issue SQAs but instead required comment within a non-extendable period of five days so that it can dispose of the case as quickly and as expeditiously as possible," Supreme Court spokesperson Gleoresty Guerra said in a text message. "We apologize for the confusion."
 
The original date for ballot configuration falls on January 11. Ballot configuration refers to designing the paper ballots according to different specifications such as the precinct number, clustered precincts, the number of registered voters in the precinct, and official list of candidates, including party-list groups.
 
The Comelec will have to finalize the party-list candidates to push through with the configuration.
 
“The Supreme Court came out with a resolution that they’re going to meet on January 22. Sabi ko, tingnan niyo kung kaya natin antayin ‘yun… Gusto ko sana i-extend beyond the 22 so that we can settle the party lists,” Elections chairman Sixto Brillantes Jr. said Wednesday.
 
However, Brillantes said the Comelec’s Information Technology Department said they could only extend it until January 15.
 
“That will not help us any, not too much. That’s a four-day (extension). Sabi ko, sige, kung ‘yun ang maximum, wala tayong magagawa,” Brillantes said
 
He noted too that the extension would not affect their preparations for the elections.
 
If the SC approves SQAs beyond the date for configuration, Comelec would be forced to resist the SC order, Brillantes said.
 
“Wala na, unless the SC in the meantime before we start the configurations comes up with new SQA, where we would be forced to put them in,” he said.
 
Brillantes clarified, however, that only existing party-list groups are allowed to have SQAs in order to participate. 
 
Comelec is requiring both an SQA and a mandatory injunction for disqualified new registrants.
 
Comment on petitions
 
Brillantes noted too that they are prepared to comment on the petitions of various party-lists, which numbered to over a hundred questioning their disqualification with the high court.
 
The SC granted SQAs to 52 registered groups. Only Kabaka, a party-list group associated with the political clan Bagatsings, was denied by the high court.
 
In their erratum, the SC said it did not issue SQAs but merely required comment from the Comelec within five days on the petitions.
 
“They should be aware because we’re announcing naman the configuration period. Hindi naman siguro sarado tainga nila na hindi nila naririnig,” Brillantes said.
 
Party-list slots
 
As for the sequencing in the ballots, Brillantes said they would not change the assigned numbers of party-lists during the despite the removal of more groups.
 
A first for the poll body, the Comelec raffled out the slots for party-lists last January 4 to prevent groups starting with “1” or “A” to have an undue advantage. In 2010, the groups were listed alphabetically on the ballot. Before that, the ballot only provided a blank for the voter to write the name of the party-list he or she is voting for.
 
A total of 136 party-lists participated in the historic raffle. Thirteen groups which took part were later removed by the Comelec for failing to secure a mandatory injunction with the SQA.
 
The party-list elections – which started in 1998 – aims to open the halls of Congress to the marginalized and underrepresented sectors. — RSJ, GMA News